A CONTROVERSIAL new manager, allegations of racism against their chairman – Wigan fans have seen their club dragged through the gutter this week.
Yet while Malky Mackay and Dave Whelan fight to restore their reputations, Latics midfielder Ben Watson has been nearing the end of a far more heart-warming battle.
It is ten months since Watson slammed into a full-blooded challenge with Barnsley’s Martin Woods that snapped his tibia and fibula.
An operation and 45 metal staples were needed to repair the damage, followed by months in a cast. He then had to sit and watch as Wigan lost a play-off semi-final to QPR, slumped into the Championship relegation zone and parted company with Uwe Rosler.
Finally back to full fitness, he is desperate to bring a bit of pride back to the club.
“It’s felt more like ten years than ten months,” says the 29-year-old, who wrote himself into Wigan folklore with the last-gasp winner against Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final.
“Sitting there powerless, knowing you can’t do anything to help. All players go into training sometimes and think ‘Oh, I’m tired, I don’t feel right, I’m this or I’m that’. Then you have a long-term injury and you’d do anything to be out there. I won’t be saying anything like that again.
“I’ll never forget when I was 18 or 19 and all the senior boys at Palace were telling me how quickly your playing days go.
“At the time you think ‘Yeah right, I’ve got years left’. But it comes round, especially when things like this happen. That’s why you’ve got to play as if every game is your last.”
Watson had scored five goals in 33 games when he suffered the injury, his second broken leg in just 15 months.
“On the plus side, you know what to expect,” adds the former Palace and Spurs man. “On the downside, you also know how long it will take. It was a low moment but my family were great. The wife had to put up with me for quite a while after I first broke it and couldn’t do anything for myself.
“And I’ve got two young kids who don’t really understand. They just see me as Daddy and want to play all the time.
“My boy Reggie is four and all he ever wants to do is play football. He doesn’t understand what a broken leg is and the very next day he was trying to drag me into the garden to run around.
“They were a godsend to be honest. It doesn’t matter how hard a time you’re having, you look at your kids and they instantly put you in a good mood. They’ve been amazing.”
Mackay’s arrival was preceded by the sacking of Rosler, who won just three of Wigan’s 17 games this season.
Watson is convinced the former Cardiff boss can turn things around, but says Wigan’s misfiring players cannot leave Rosler – who led the Latics from 14th to 5th after succeeding Owen Coyle in December 2013 – to shoulder all the blame for this season’s slump.
“It’s not nice when anyone loses their job,” said Watson. “I had a great relationship with Uwe. He stuck by me when I got the injury and was instrumental in getting me a new contract. I’ll always be grateful for that.
“Nine times out of ten, if you aren’t winning games then it’s the manager who pays the price. But as players, you can’t wash your hands of it. You have to admit you haven’t been good enough and accept some of the blame.
“You look at the quality in the squad and we shouldn’t be where we are. But it’s no good having quality on paper. You’ve got to go out there and prove how good you are and that’s not down to any manager.
“The challenge for all of us now is to make sure the new manager doesn’t suffer the same fate.
“We’re in a tough situation but we’ve got time. When Uwe came in last year, nobody gave us a chance but we made it to the play- offs. If we can get on another good run, I don’t see why we can’t do it again.”